March 23, 2016

Clearing the Air Around our “Yogi Rage.”

Author's Own

Sometimes I find myself grinding up behind strangers, trying to get nowhere fast, in the least amount of time possible.

I often trick myself into thinking I’m in a rush and everyone else is in my way, when really I have all the time in the world. So yes, even as a yogi, I fall into the trap of going bonkers over trivial defeats.

As I’ve continued to experience and observe the phenomenon of “Yogi Rage,” it’s become more apparent how urgently we need to acknowledge it for what it is, squeeze in a hearty laugh, and move on.

During busy season, when I worked at a big four accounting firm (“legal jail with better food”), I found myself on autopilot in the Umbrella Warfare Zone of Midtown Manhattan. If you are 5’3″–5’7″ in New York City, fat chance you’ll make it out of the concrete jungle with both eyeballs intact on a rainy day! (Don’t even think about smiling, smarty-pants.)

Blindsided, I remember once being shoved by a lady swinging her umbrella, on 50th and Lexington. I deemed it an accident until I noticed this woman intentionally repeating the same move on other innocent commuters walking ahead of me. My confusion turned into humorous bafflement, and I let out a loud chuckle.

Out of curiosity, I also googled “people getting angry for no reason.”

Prior to my search, I figured I would stumble on funny memes, commentaries, and articles surrounding the phenomenon. Instead, answers flooded the results page with: “I get angry a lot for no reason” and “People get angry at me for no apparent reason.”

It seems we’re all aware of the phenomenon, but don’t fully understand it. We’re quick to blame external forces, and slow to look toward the restlessness of our own minds.

Call it twisted, but I’ve often resorted to laughing when we work ourselves up over trite hardships—road rage, class registration, yelp reviews, zippers, security lines, small discounts and the like.

I also enjoy watching people get heated about relatively odd topics. I’m prone to the same mind tricks and tendencies all too often.

My first real thoughts on the phenomenon of Yogi Rage were spurred from an experience during an Equinox ReVIVE yoga class in Summit, New Jersey. During this particular 90-minute slow flow, I could not hold it together.

Throughout class, yoga instructors emphasize breathing solely through the nose. Ujjayi breath slows the nervous system and increases oxygen flow to exerting muscles.

Here’s a quick dialogue of how a kindly-meant suggestion took an ugly turn:

Teacher: Focus on breathing solely through the nose.

Disgruntled Man (yelling): No, breathing through the mouth releases toxins!

Teacher: Okay, but that is not yoga.

Disgruntled Man (yelling louder now): This is yoga! I have been doing yoga for 15 years! Don’t tell me what yoga is!

The man continued to breathe louder than any human I have encountered in a yoga class thus far. Holding in my laugh upside down, I let out a few disruptive snorts. Unfortunately, I realize my reaction may have hindered other people’s class experiences.

On a lighter note, the episode forced me to evaluate scenarios in my own life.

When have I acted like this?

Why do we respond destructively in situations arranged for the sole purpose of training us to react with mindfulness?

Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves to be a certain way, and situations to play out just right: we get unjustifiably angry when things don’t pan out perfectly and take out the frustration in bizarre fashions.

Yet, we know that way of handling things has always been out of style.

Still, when work and life overwhelm, a dollar overcharge at the local lunch spot will have you fuming out of places you didn’t know possible! A good friend recently shared a story of her roommate who stayed on the phone with her cable company for five hours demanding reimbursement for one day of internet when the service was down.

Personally, I have worked on making a consistent, conscious effort to evaluate my reactions and take things as they come.

Many of my bad moods are the product of a misalignment between the reality of a situation and my expectations nonexistent in real time.

We cry because something did or did not happen, we stress because an event may happen, and we regret because a past existed that we did not intend.

No easy feat, since staying aware and accepting the present is tough. No one’s perfect! And if we’re being honest, I once attended yoga at a studio where I forged my identity for a Groupon discount!

Yogis are humans first, prone to the same errors and mishaps as anyone. If we don’t accept this, we’ll drive ourselves crazy with self-judgment and inner frustration. Worst case, the feelings will still bubble up and present themselves in our every day lives when we least expect.

Exploring Yogi Rage allows us to let trivial problems go, and “laugh it off.” Humor gets us a lot further than losing our cool over the barista adding two percent milk to our latte instead of soy.

Everything is in motion, nothing is truly predictable, and any attempt to hold onto the ever-changing conditions of our lives will leave us worn out and angry. Imagine how freeing life would be if we could let go of the attachments we have toward things needing to be a certain way.

Like anything else, it takes practice and perseverance. Ultimately, aspiring toward this freedom, where I’m more times the observer rather than the subject of Yogi Rage, has become the true purpose of my yoga practice.


Author: Shoshanna Delventhal

Apprentice Editor: Sylvia Boss; Editor: Emily Bartran

Image: Author’s Own

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Shoshanna Delventhal